Kin-based cultural transmission of tool use in wild chimpanzees

Noemie Lamon, Christof Neumann, Thibaud Gruber, Klaus Zuberbühler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Current research on animal culture has focused strongly on cataloging the diversity of socially transmitted behaviors and on the social learning mechanisms that sustain their spread. Comparably less is known about the persistence of cultural behavior following innovation in groups of wild animals. We present observational data and a field experiment designed to address this question in a wild chimpanzee community, capitalizing on a novel tool behavior, moss-sponging, which appeared naturally in the community in 2011. We found that, 3 years later, moss-sponging was still present in the individuals that acquired the behavior shortly after its emergence and that it had spread further to other community members. Our field experiment suggests that this secondary radiation and consolidation of moss-sponging is the result of transmission through matrilines, in contrast to the previously documented, association-based spread among the initial cohort. We conclude that the spread of cultural behavior in wild chimpanzees follows a sequential structure of initial proximity-based, horizontal transmission, followed by kin-based vertical transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1602750
Number of pages9
JournalScience Advances
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2017


  • Chimpanzees
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Tool use
  • Social transmission
  • Kin transmission


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